Interview: Santhosh Adayikkoth, CEO, BigInfo Labs on Big Data perception and learning Big Data skills

We discuss BigInfo Labs' future plans, Big Data perception at C-level in large firms, most effective ways to learn Big Data skills and more.

Santhosh AdayikkothSanthosh Adayikkoth defines and owns BigInfo Labs' vision, strategy & execution. He has over 20 years of experience in exploring new technology, solutions, markets and in incubating new service lines and converting them into profitable practices in large IT corporations

As a thought leader in his area Santhosh spoke at various events including Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) India meet on Collaborative Innovation in the area of Drug Discovery, Search Summit at Orlando FL - Microsoft FAST, SAP Summit at Mumbai (Solutions for RETL and CPG).

Santhosh has co-authored a book – “Collaborative Computational Technologies for Biomedical Research (Wiley Series on Technologies for the Pharmaceutical Industry)” – along with the leaders from CSIR.

Part 1 of the interview.

Here is part 2 of my interview with him:

Anmol Rajpurohit:  Q4. Is it an advantage or a limitation to be based out of India (specifically, Bengaluru)? Are you planning to open an office in US soon?

Santhosh Adayikkoth: I’d like to open offices all across the globe to be honest! Well, at least in the long term. To your question, yes, we will be strengthening our presence in the US very shortly given the traction we are seeing and the reception our solutions have been getting in our client circles. I don’t really see there being any limitation being based out of Bangalore. In fact it has been quite the advantage helping us strengthen our offerings during this initial phase of our journey. We’ve been able to tap into the very talented resource pool out here.

We’ve been also able to have meaningful conversations with other organizations who are innovating in this space and others. Such interactions have definitely been stimulating and driving us to really aim high. We’ve been able to take our ideas to local enterprises as well and getting excellent feedback. Engaging clients in the US hasn’t been difficult either – everyone is now used to working in the global workplace. Besides, my team and I have been able to travel where physical presence was required.

But, I am sure we will be moving past that pretty soon. Especially at the pace we are engaging with clients! So an office in the US – yes, very soon.

AR: Q5. How do you think Big Data is being perceived by the C-level executives of large firms? What are their biggest concerns regarding scaling up their investment in Big Data?

SA: Like I said before, I think there is a very good understanding about Big Data among CXOs today. I’d even venture to say a lot of business users know it really well. So they’ve definitely moved on from “What is Big Data; should I be doing something about it” to “What can I do with Big Data”. I believe that the reason we see very few companies in the surveys by analysts on whether they are already running Big Data programs is primarily for this reason. We’ve talked to many clients who have deployed Big Data infrastructure, but aren’t really stretching their imaginations at least with respect to the utility of that infrastructure.

 Big Data SkillsThat’s the principal concern. Business value isn’t evident upfront for a number of these initiatives.
CXOs are looking to move past Big Data solutions that are merely aiding their operations to usage models that can have a direct impact on the organizations profitability.
It comes back again to having well thought through business apps to that end. I believe organizations like BigInfo Labs, with precisely that kind of focus can allay those concerns.

AR: Q6. What do you think are the most effective ways to learn Big Data skills?

SA: Solve problems. Really, from a technology perspective I see acquiring Big Data skills not fundamentally different than any other skill-set. Read a book, enroll into courses, get formal training, get certified, subscribe to online journals to keep abreast of the hype etc. Participating in open source forums can give a good boost. Things are moving at a blazing speed there.

Of course for technology roles, a healthy understanding of statistics and a strong math foundation is really important, more so than if you were doing any other type of application development. But it comes back to the discussion we had earlier – there is so much opportunity for putting these technologies to work. Even non-technical roles can gain immensely from thinking about potential applications in their line of work. Big Data technologies need a new class of problems to shine. These can be found all around us. So pick one – it can be something to do with a new application of the IOT (Internet of Things) phenomenon, or simply poring over historical/archive data to discover something new. If you don’t have the requisite technology skills, learn them in that context or simply work with a passionate team mate from your technical team!

AR: Q7. What was the last book that you read and liked?

SA: Eli Broad’s Art of Unreasonable comes to mind. It is a very well written and succinct book and threw many a pearl of wisdom my way.